Energy-hungry Poland eyes nuclear plants

Friday, October 17, 2008

WARSAW - Poland hopes to reduce its heavy reliance on coal, which produces harmful greenhouse gases, by building a few nuclear power plants by 2030, Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak said on Thursday.

Pawlak's ministry is currently working on a new energy strategy designed to meet the Polish economy's booming demand for electricity and to modernize its communist-era power plants.

"We are in consultations on a new energy policy for Poland up to the year 2030 and nuclear energy features strongly in it. We aim to build a few such plants over the next 10 to 20 years," Pawlak told Reuters in an interview.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has previously expressed support for developing nuclear energy in Poland.

He did not say when the new strategy would be published. Prime Minister Donald Tusk has previously expressed support for developing nuclear energy in Poland.

Poland produces its energy almost entirely from coal and lignite, has no nuclear power plants at present and has yet to develop renewable energy sources such as wind farms favoured by the European Union, which Warsaw joined in 2004.

"On (nuclear) technology, we are in talks with France as well as with global partners such as the United States, Canada, South Korea and Japan," Pawlak said.

Poland's existing power plants need urgent modernization but analysts say that will not be enough to meet expanding energy demand. Nuclear power is virtually free of the CO2 emissions which contribute to global warming.

Pawlak said Poland was also cooperating with its neighbours on building atomic plants outside the country.

"We are in talks on cooperating to build Ignalina 2 in Lithuania and also about a nuclear plant in Ukraine. There has also been an offer made recently for developing an atomic plant in Kaliningrad and Polish companies are examining it," he said.

Kaliningrad is a small Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea.

Poland and the Baltic states have been discussing the Ignalina 2 project for a few years but officials say construction will not start before 2015.

Pawlak also said his ministry was working on a proposal designed to reduce the costs for power plants of a European Commission plan to slash CO2 emissions.

Poland opposes the Commission's plan to force utilities to pay in full for CO2 emission permits from 2013, saying this would badly damage economic growth. Warsaw wants a more gradual shift to making firms pay for all their emissions.

"We have worked out an alternative mechanism (to the Commission's) for the power sector which would allow a reduction in emissions but would not cause huge spending on permits by power plants," Pawlak said.

Under this mechanism, known as "benchmarking auctioning," the 27-nation bloc would set a free emission quota for producing a certain amount of energy that would equal the pollution by the most clean and technologically advanced producer.

Other utilities would only have to buy permits to cover the difference between this set amount and their real emissions.

"So if a plant with the best technology uses 100 CO2 units to produce a certain unit of energy, it gets them for free. And if another company uses 115 CO2 units to produce the same amount of energy it has to buy 15," Pawlak said.

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